On the second day of the high-profile trial against Metin Topuz, a Turkish U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul charged with espionage and terror, eyewitnesses gave an account of his links to Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
"Yavuz," a secret eyewitness who testified Wednesday via closed-circuit television with his voice and image altered, told the Istanbul court that the consulate employee was "highly revered" by FETÖ-linked police officers.
Serving as a liaison officer at the U.S. consulate, Topuz was arrested in 2017 over his links to FETÖ and faces charges of espionage. The suspect faces separate prison terms including a life sentence and 35 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the government, political and military espionage and obtaining private data illegally. The first charge carries lifetime imprisonment and stems from his links to FETÖ, the terrorist group behind the failed coup in Turkey that killed 251 people in 2016.
The secret witness, who was a former employee of the Istanbul Police Financial Crimes Unit, said Topuz was a frequent visitor to the unit and a close acquaintance of Yakup Saygılı, a former police chief who was among culprits of FETÖ's first coup attempt in 2013. "He was being treated differently than other visitors. He was respected and Saygılı used to welcome him at the door. Topuz was liaison officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) but I didn't see him meeting with counter-narcotics police chiefs. He'd always meet Saygılı [who was at Financial Crimes Unit]," the witness said.
Nizamettin Çelikbilek, another witness who was an informant for gendarme forces in Istanbul, said he knew Topuz through the latter's contacts with gendarme Col. Murat Koçyiğit. "I was in a car with Koçyiğit when Topuz and a woman I didn't know came in another car. He gave an envelope to Koçyiğit and left. I asked the colonel who he was but he told me ‘not to get involved with this man or I would ‘get a big headache.'" Çelikbilek said he later "worked" with gendarme Cmdr. Asım Sürer, and like Koçyiğit, Sürer was in contact with Topuz. "Topuz contacted me one day after Sürer told me he'd call. I supplied him with information about things I know," Çelikbilek said without going into details. He said he was in a hotel with Topuz in Istanbul when someone called the suspect. "He told the person on the phone that it was ‘way above you' and ‘only Mr. Adil can solve it.'" I asked Sürer who this Mr. Adil is and he told me it was Adil Öksüz, ‘the commander of everyone you know.'" Öksüz is a fugitive high-ranking member of FETÖ and is accused of planning the 2016 coup attempt with the terrorist group's military infiltrators in the army.